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People are flooding Instagram with pink clouds to drown out grisly images of slain teen

People are flooding Instagram with pink clouds to drown out grisly images of slain teen
[Photo: Kenrick Mills/Unsplash]

Two days after the brutal murder of an upstate New York teenager, Instagram is still having trouble scrubbing its platform of gruesome images and offensive memes related to the incident.

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Bianca Devins, a 17-year-old from Utica, New York, with a large following on Instagram, was killed on Sunday morning, her throat allegedly slit by Brandon Clark, a 21-year-old she knew, according to local police. Clark allegedly uploaded photos of her bloodied body online before attempting suicide—images that quickly spread across social media sites on Sunday and Monday, leaving companies like Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram scrambling to remove the content.

As of this morning, some of the images still appeared to be trickling through Instagram’s defenses, as searches of certain hashtags—including the victim’s first name and Instagram handle—turned up graphic photos and other offensive content. The searches also revealed a number of memes making light of Devins’s death, along with trolls looking to exploit the viral story for likes and followers, with some falsely claiming to have video of the killing.

The ongoing flood of shocking content underscores Instagram’s apparent inability to keep pace with bad actors, revealing the ease with which trolls can exploit the site’s hashtag search functions for nefarious aims. Instagram has apparently disabled some hashtags associated with Devins’s death, but it’s pretty easy for users to start other ones.

Reached for comment, Instagram said it was taking a number of steps to stop the spread of the images and others that violate its policies—for instance, memes that celebrate the crime. The company also uses technology that allows it to proactively find additional attempts to upload offending images and automatically remove them before anyone sees them.

“Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic event,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We are taking every measure to remove this content from our platforms.”

In the meantime, well-intentioned users aren’t waiting around. Many are trying to combat the horrific content with positive images of pink clouds and other pink-themed pictures, posting them along with the relevant hashtags as a way of “drowning out” the trolls and their graphic imagery. Some are also turning their profile images pink in memory of the teen.

“Please help drown out the pics by tagging her and using the hashtags,” one highly shared meme said.

Clark has been charged with second-degree murder. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in jail.

[Screenshot: Instagram]

This post has been updated with input from Instagram.

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